Poland's Ministry of Culture has announced its decision to loan the painting, currently in the collection of the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków, for upcoming exhibitions in Madrid and Berlin
"Lady with an Ermine" was painted by Leonardo da Vinci near the end of the fifteenth century. It is one of only four portraits painted by the man behind the "Mona Lisa". The model for the painting bears a strong resemblance to the model in da Vinci's " La belle ferronnière", currently in the collection of the Louvre. The painting was acquired in Italy by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski in 1798 and incorporated into the Czartoryski family collection in 1800. The painting travelled extensively in the nineteenth century, escaping plunder during the Russian invasions of 1830 thanks to hiding in Dresden and Paris. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, it was appropriated by the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin. In 1940 it returned to Kraków at the behest of Governor Hans Frank, who wished it to hang in his office. At the end of the war, it made its way back to Poland from Frank's house in Bavaria and has been on display at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków ever since.
Loans of the painting have been banned as it was feared transport would harm the work. However, it is to serve as a focal point of two major European exhibitions. First, the portrait will be on loan to the Royal Palace for the "Golden Times of the Republic" exhibition in May, one of the main events preceding the Polish Presidency of the EU Council later this year. The show presents over 200 works of art in Polish collections, reflecting the nation's art history from the end of the Middle Ages through the period of partiition. "Lady with an Ermine" is the most valuable exhibit at this exhibition.
It will then travel to Berlin's Gemaeldegalerie in August for an exhibition devoted to Renaissance Portrait Painting. The unprecedented decision to loan the painting was announced by the General Conservator Piotr Żuchowski, founder of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation Adam Karol Czartoryski, director of the National Museum in Kraków Zofia Gołubiew and the Conservator of the Małopolski Voivodship Jan Janczykowski. The work is currently held by the Royal Castle in Warsaw, although the National Museum in Kraków has been requesting its return to the museum. However, once it returns from Mardid and Berlin, it will not be released for ten years (unless there are extenuating circumstances). It will instead serve as the subject of a research project on its origins.
Source: press release, wiadomosci.gazeta.pl